by Isabella Krell, Senior Communications Officer
Distance learning did not stop tutoring and mentoring from happening at Graded!
Success at Graded - The American School of São Paulo entails more than just academic achievement. Students must have strong communication and organizational skills, as well as perseverance, motivation, and confidence to thrive.
Mentoring and tutoring can help children and adolescents flourish in school (Miller),1 and, according to Charles Bonas, founder of an educational company in the UK, both principles can be viewed "along a spectrum" (Rowe).2 Tutoring focuses on academic development, whereas mentoring goes a step further and addresses one's overall well-being. "If tutors are ski instructors teaching perfect technique," Bonas explains, "mentors are the mountain guides enabling pupils to explore unimagined places and perspectives, cultivating a unique craft" (Rowe).3
Graded's Mentoring and Tutoring (GMT) Club pairs high-schoolers with Lower and Middle School students seeking academic support and general life advice. Weekly one-on-one meetings provide students with the opportunity to work with a dedicated tutor/mentor, promoting intellectual and personal growth. Young students meet with the same tutor year after year, which fosters a solid and trusting relationship. High School students interested in tutoring choose the subject areas and grade levels on which they would like to focus. Once matched, tutors assist students with their homework assignments, projects, and test preparation.
"While academic support is key and at the heart of GMT," says Olivia P., a Graded senior and GMT leader, "the club's mentoring component is arguably even more important." Mentors help students with time management, organizational skills, friendship support, and goal setting. "They act as thinking partners for their mentees," Olivia explains, "which is critical during the pandemic, when students may be struggling with social distancing and virtual learning."
Some mentors are experts in a specific subject, while others are generalists. However, all Graded mentors and tutors must be natural motivators and trust builders. The trick is to match students well. Having common interests and similar experiences is beneficial in ensuring that the mentor and mentee will get along.
Olivia explains, "We might choose to pair a young, Korean child who recently moved to Brazil with a Korean high-schooler, who speaks the same language, comes from the same background, and has also gone through the experience of moving to Brazil." By drawing on passions or interests, mentors can successfully inspire further learning.
Between 50 and 70 high-schoolers sign up for GMT annually and undergo training to become tutors and mentors for younger students. Under the guidance of GMT advisor Ms. Carla Hillman and club leaders Isabela A., Olivia P., and Rafael J., more than 100 Graded students participate in the program either as mentors or mentees.
GMT's leaders devote time and resources to train tutors and mentors at the start of each school year, providing basic advice on working with younger kids. One of the club's primary goals for the coming year is to invest more in training and development to guarantee mentors are more equipped and confident. Aside from training, Lower and Middle School teachers provide year-round assistance to tutors. When a teacher or counselor recommends a student for GMT, the tutor communicates with that faculty member regularly to learn about the student's specific needs. Tutors frequently meet with students' parents to gather additional information.
The benefits of GMT are noticeable for both mentors and mentees. "I like meeting every week," says Lower School student Rafaella. "If I could, I would meet twice a week with my mentor. I have improved in my classes because of him, and he has helped me get through a lot." Santiago G., Rafaella's mentor, states that "One of the reasons I decided to join GMT was because I understood how it felt to struggle in a class or to feel out of place at Graded. I had a lot of trouble socially adapting and academically succeeding while I was in Lower and Middle School. My own GMT tutor, who supported me throughout my Lower and Middle school years, was important in helping me overcome these issues at Graded. GMT allowed me to grow both socially and academically and helped me to achieve great things subsequently. My own experience made me want to become a GMT tutor since I was aware of the socio-academic influence that a tutor can have on students."
Similarly, GMT tutor Marina S. notes that she joined the club because she wanted to provide a form of support that is rare to find. "Different individuals learn in different ways, and I believe GMT allows mentees to learn in a way that is most beneficial for them. I, for one, am a visual learner who color codes my notes to help things stick in my head. As a tutor/mentor, I've discovered that experimenting with various teaching and learning approaches with my mentee has helped me become more adaptable. It also helps the mentee discover more about themselves and what they require to be successful." Marina says that a large part of her ability to stay organized and focused stems from the support she has had from her teachers, tutors, and mentors, so being able to exchange roles has been enriching and rewarding. "What I love most about being a GMT tutor is being able to connect with young children! They are so funny and outgoing - it is refreshing and inspiring to see little humans being so honest and true to themselves." Marina also believes that being a GMT tutor has helped her develop strong communication and leadership skills. It has been gratifying to see that her effort helps her mentee succeed academically and socially.
Tutoring and mentoring may be traced back to ancient Greek poet Homer's epic tale The Odyssey.4 Since then, these practices have evolved. Tutoring and mentoring are now used in academia, businesses, and even personal lives.5 Just as no two people are alike, no two mentoring pairs or relationships are the same. Some mentor/mentee pairs focus on teaching and academic support, while others choose to explore their personal lives and experiences. Regardless of the technique used during a session, the outcome is the same: mentors assist mentees in unleashing their full potential. Graded's Mentoring and Tutoring Club is doing a tremendous job of combining both principles and applying them to students' everyday lives to foster their social and academic success.
1Mentoring Students and Young People: A Handbook of Effective Practice, by Andrew Miller, TAYLOR & FRANCIS, 2016, pp. 130.
2,3Rowe, Jenny. "Best of Mentors: What Makes a Good One?" School House Magazine, School House Magazine, 11 Feb. 2019, www.schoolhousemagazine.co.uk/education/tuition/what-makes-good-mentor/.
4"Mentor." Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor. Accessed 3 Jun. 2021.
5Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering, by National Academy of Sciences et al., National Academy Press, 1997, pp. 1–2, www.nap.edu/read/5789/chapter/2#2.